Edwardian churches needed money. Collections at All Saints, Lullington, Derbyshire raised the equivalent of around £6,500 a year. Nearly a third of this went to charities in England and overseas. Money which the church kept for its own use met ordinary expenditure but was not sufficient for major repairs to the building. So the Vicar, mindful that a new heating system would cost the equivalent of £13,000, motivated the lady of the manor and local farmers to hold a summer fete.
An Influential lady
Lullington’s first fete was a grand affair. Held in July 1904, its financial success relied partly on the lady of the manor’s ability to attract wealthy and elegant people who were likely to make large donations. At the age of 75, the Hon Mrs Colvile still rode to hounds with the Meynell Hunt and she persuaded several eminent personalities of the area to come to her fete. These included Mrs Inge of Thorpe Hall, Lady Muriel Worthington of Netherseal Old Hall, and Sir Robert and Lady Frances Gresley of Drakelowe Hall.
The Hon Mrs Colvile and the Vicar each had a social circle which included people who were willing to support their efforts. Yet the fete was for anyone who lived in the village and further afield. For instance, in 1907 Lullington’s farmers sent horses and carts to Burton, Tamworth, Lichfield, Castle Gresley and Ashby to bring to the fete all who wanted to come.
The fetes of 1904 and 1905 took place on a Wednesday afternoon in Lullington Park. They were largely bazaars, though people could watch a cricket match or listen to the Swadlincote Silver Prize Band playing a selection of popular tunes. The stalls were arranged in large tents and reflected the status of those in charge of them. In the central tent the Hon Mrs Colvile and her friends sold delicate needlework and Moorish pottery. The vicar’s wife and members of her social circle were in a separate tent selling ‘fancy goods’ and garden produce. In a third tent the farmer’s wives served refreshments. Mrs Mary Durant, the schoolmistress, had a table outside with sweets and mineral waters for the children to buy. In both 1904 and 1905 a severe thunderstorm forced those not in the tents to run for cover.
In 1906 and 1907 the fete took place in the gardens of Lullington Hall. Attractions at the Lullington Park fetes had included roundabouts, swings and a shooting gallery. These were replaced by more genteel activities: croquet, bowls, and an Aunt Sally. One diversion consisted of ten young ladies with ribbons in their hats riding bicycles decorated with pink and blue flowers. According to the Burton Chronicle, they performed charming and intricate movements on the croquet lawn, accompanied by the Band. The person responsible for training the girls in these manoeuvres was William Bott of Linton, a rural postman.
Fetes Become Less Ambitious
In November 1907 Lullington received a shock which had an effect on future fetes. Major General Sir Henry Colvile, son of the Hon Mrs Colvile and owner of the Lullington Estate, had driven his motor cycle into an oncoming car and was dead. There was no fete in 1908, nor in the following two years. The Hon Mrs Colvile was either in mourning or lacked the energy to direct village events. And no one was willing to take over her role. However, in 1910 a block of stone fell from the church spire and crashed through roof below. Fortunately the building was empty but the damage highlighted the church’s need for money.
The prime mover of the 1911 fete was the Vicar, Edward Custance. The fete took place in the Vicarage’s garden and field. There was a tennis tournament, clock golf and a well laden rummage stall. Sports included an obstacle race, a blindfold race for women and a needle threading race for men. Other competitions were especially for children.
In 1913 a brass band helped create a pleasant atmosphere during the afternoon. It then played in the evening so people could dance on the Vicarage lawn. As daylight faded, the Custances lit their garden with fairy lamps and lanterns. The fete raised the equivalent of £900 for church funds.
The Hon Mrs Colvile died in 1912 and the Custances left the village in 1914. Fetes continued during the War but less energy was involved in their organisation, partly because fewer servants and labourers were available to set them up. Fetes relied more heavily on guessing games: the name of a doll, the weight of a sheep, the smells contained in six bottles. People still had fun, but without the relative wealth and influence of the Colviles and the Custances, Lullington’s fete became, for a time, less remarkable.
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